The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft ended its 12-year mission on Friday by intentionally crash-landing on the Comet 67P, BBC reported. The mission's control room in Germany was able to confirm the impact after radio contract with the probe abruptly ended, according to the space agency. "Farewell Rosetta; you've done the job," said ESA mission manager Patrick Martin. "That was space science at its best."
The decision to crash-land Rosetta was made after scientists realised that there was very little solar power left to operate the systems, and the data rates, too, had dropped to a mere 40 kbps, reported BBC. Rosetta was not designed for a crash-land, but controllers at the agency's operations centre are hopeful that the software on board will ensure everything gets shut down when it comes in contact with the comet.
These controllers changed Rosetta's course on Thursday and put it on a direct collision path. The crash-land was expected to yield some very close measurements of this 4-km-wide ball of ice and dust. Rosetta took its last image around 15 m from the surface of the comet, reported The Guardian.
Launched in 2004, the Rosetta spacecraft's mission was to get an insight into the comet's structure and chemistry. Apart from the ESA, the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration was also a partner in this $1-billion mission. From August 2014, when Rosetta arrived at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, till now, it has taken more than a lakh images and instrument readings, helping scientist understand the behaviour of the comet. It achieved a major feat in November 2014 when its robot Philae landed on Comet 67P to gather information.
So far, Rosetta has provided several unbelievable images. Professor Monica Grady, a space scientist at the Open University, told The Guardian that she was "knocked out" by the first detailed surface imagery. A Rosetta scientist at Nasa's jet propulsion laboratory, Björn Davidsson, said the mission had revealed that the comet is porous, with about 70% being empty space.
Rosetta's flight director Andrea Accomazzo, who compared it to the moon landing in significance, had said, "We're now entering the final stage of the space segment of the mission, if you like. But Rosetta's data will be exploited for decades to come." According to scientists, data from Comet 67P will give them a glimpse into the conditions that existed four-and-a-half billion years ago when the solar system was formed.